TRANSCRIPT - Rebecca Goldburg
Goldberg is a Senior Scientist at Environmental Defense
in New York.
What is the problem with salmon aquaculture?
are a number of problems with salmon farming, but the main one is
that the farming is being done directly in coastal bays and estuaries,
treating them as a dumping ground. salmon farming is basically akin
to putting a feedlot in the water. Very large numbers of fish, a
couple hundred thousand fish in any particular farm site, are put
close together. All the waste from those fish and uneaten feed flow
directly into coastal waters. The mantra of the salmon farming industry
is a rather old fashioned one: dilution is the solution to pollution.
you go back to the turn of the century, the way of dealing with
air pollution was to build tall smoke stacks and get it up into
the atmosphere and spread the smoke out. We didn't have to worry
about it. That's the approach of the salmon farming industry. Put
the farm into the water. The water will take salmon waste and dilute
them and therefore they're not a problem. That's a rather old fashioned
mentality in an era where we realize that our environment is not
infinite, that the ocean is not infinite, and we need to treat it
Is the solution getting them out of the coastal areas or is it more
complicated than that?
salmon farming more sustainable means dealing with a number of problems
caused by the industry. One of them is keeping the industry from
causing water pollution. Another issue concerns the use of large
quantities of wild caught fish as feed for salmon, that's simply
not ecologically sustainable. Another issue is the very large numbers
of farmed salmon that escape from salmon farms and survive and reproduce
in natural waters. That's a big problem on the West Coast of the
United States and Canada, because most of the salmon that are farmed
are Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon doesn't belong in Pacific waters.
It appears that they are beginning to establish populations in the
Pacific and that those populations may threaten some native runs
of salmon species.
Are there any threats to Atlantic salmon on the East Coast?
escape of farmed salmon is a huge issue in Maine. The remaining
runs of wild Atlantic salmon in Maine are actually on the federal
endangered species list. So, there's a great attempt by the Federal
Government to restore Atlantic salmon populations in wild rivers
in Maine. There are so many salmon now escaping from salmon farms
that they dwarf the remaining population of wild salmon. When the
farmed and the wild salmon inter breed, they essentially genetically
dumb down the wild salmon. It's sort of like breeding a mutt with
a wolf and expecting that the offspring will be anything but a hybrid
that isn't as fit to survive in the wild. So, the National Marine
Fisheries Service has actually identified the escape of farmed salmon
as one of the major impediments to restoring endangered wild salmon
runs in Maine.
What else about aquaculture would you like to speak to?
of the main rationales that is offered for aquaculture development
is to supplement fish catches worldwide. We're not going to get
more wild fish out of the ocean, stocks are collapsing, or at least
in some cases, there's no more fish to get. So, the notion is that
aquaculture will supplement marine fisheries. But, the fact is that
if salmon farming depends on huge numbers of wild caught fish as
inputs, salmon farming doesn't supplement wild fisheries. It depends
comment on food safety and this kind of aquaculture?
Food and Drug Administration only has a couple legally enforceable
standards for seafood safety, for mercury, and for PCBs. A lot of
other toxins, the agency doesn't have a legally enforceable standard
for, if they've even set any sort of standard at all. Moreover,
most of our farmed salmon is imported and very little seafood, perhaps
2% gets inspected as it crosses the border. So, the American public
has very little protection at the moment from imported seafood that
might contain unsafe level of contaminants.
What about farmed salmon and food safety?
salmon is almost certainly higher in contaminants than wild salmon
because it's fed a diet that's very high in fish oil. When toxins
accumulate in the environment, they tend to accumulate in fats.
Because farmed salmon have this high oil diet, and have a greater
fat content than wild caught salmon, they tend to be more toxic.
you comment on consumer power?
have great potential to influence how the seafood industry conducts
its business. At the moment, there is great alternative in the marketplace
to farmed salmon. That is wild caught salmon from Alaska. The wild
salmon fishery in Alaska is relatively well managed and consumers
should feel quite comfortable buying salmon from Alaska as an alternative.
It's an ecologically preferable alternative to farmed salmon.
Can you comment on how that's counterintuitive for many people?
consumers tend to automatically assume that just because a fish
is farmed, it's environmentally preferable to wild caught fish.
The truth is actually more complicated, and in the case of salmon,
wild caught salmon from Alaska are environmentally much more preferable
to farmed salmon for environmentally conscious consumers.